It's hard to believe the Ocean Alexander 72 Pilothouse is termed an 'entry-level' boat. It is not, however, an entry-level boat in the strict sense - rather it is an entrÃ©e to the rarefied world of superyachts.
That's the way company owner Johnny Chueh likes to describe this very impressive vessel. Considering the 72 Pilothouse is the smallest in the fleet of vessels named after his late father, Alexander, and given that the Ocean Alexander factory builds superyachts up to 120ft (36.5m), he has a point.
The 72 represents a new era for the brand. Being a semi-custom builder, the factory offers a wide range of options and layouts to potential buyers. As Johnny Chueh says: "An owner can have just about anything on the boat as long as it doesn't interfere with its structure and integrity. And that includes a Jacuzzi in the master en suite if the owner so desires - there's enough room."
There are four separate entertaining areas on the 72 Pilothouse: a dinette in the main deck cabin, a lounge, the aft cockpit, and the flybridge.
An impressive galley dominates the pilothouse. Top-of-the-line appliances include a microwave, double-drawer dishwasher, four-burner cook top with built-in oven, and a French-door refrigerator/freezer. There's also a trash compactor under the island workbench, which is set at an angle toward the dinette.
Atop the granite bench are a toaster, a coffee maker and a block with carving knives - everything comes with the boat, right down to the tea towels and a table setting for eight.
Then there's the lower helm station, which sits centrally between the lounge and a chart table that divides the companionway down to the forward guest cabins from the helm seat.
An innovation is flyscreens that slide into place on the sea doors leading to the side deck and on the main entrance to the saloon.
The main saloon is spacious with a leather lounge, two occasional chairs and a foldout occasional table. A feature is the wet bar cabinet (the wine, spirits and beer glasses come with the boat), with a wine fridge underneath. All the bare gelcoat panels here, and throughout the boat, are finished in Ultraleather.
The area under the flybridge hardtop will doubtless be a favourite entertaining spot, with a granite-topped bar and four swing-out stools, an electric barbecue, and drop-down TV.
The flybridge helm station duplicates the lower station, but has two Stidd helm seats so the skipper can have company.
This Ocean Alexander arrived in Australia as a bare boat and all furnishings are the work of the Gold Coast's Helene Johnston, who provides solutions for high-end commercial and residential designs.
The amidships master cabin enjoys natural light from two large twin portholes on either side. Johnston's creativity is evident in the spreads on the king-size berth and the surrounding furnishings. There's plenty of storage behind timber doors and drawers, a vanity and a large cedar-lined wardrobe.
The master bathroom - too opulent to be called an en suite - is furnished with his-and-hers sinks, a separate shower and freshwater flushing toilet.
Guest are accommodated in the forward cabin with double berth and an amidships second cabin with twin bunks, both with en suites. Plus, there are substantial crew quarters aft.
The Ocean Alexander 72 is a very capable sea boat that will take its owner safely on long-distance offshore adventures.
The solid, hand-laid hull features tunnels for the 38in (965mm) props, which keep the angle of the 3.5in (90mm) custom-made, military-spec shafts low, so that the hull sits well in the water. Ocean Alexander spent a lot of time in the test tank to get the position of the shaft tunnels and the computer-designed propellers right. These tunnels are set further aft than other conventional designs, so they lift the hull and make the wake quite flat and small.
The factory uses aircraft-grade aluminium I-beams, which are much stiffer than wood or fibreglass, and the tops of the stringers are reinforced with unidirectional carbonfibre that's stronger than woven carbonfibre. Coupled with heavy-duty rudders and stocks that are specced up to Ocean Alexander's larger boats, this all makes the 72 a stiff boat on the water, but without any attendant vibration or noise. It rides very smoothly, quietly and comfortably.
We ventured outside the Gold Coast Seaway in unsociable conditions, with a 20-knot nor' easterly blowing and a nasty two-metre chop. With the Keypower stabiliser set to 50 per cent sensitivity (they can be set manually depending on the conditions) the boat was very stable, even in a beam-on sea. In a tight turn at 15 knots, it sat flat in the sea and, with a three-quarter turn on the wheel, it turned almost in its own length. It was predictable and, with the autopilot set, felt like it would go on untroubled for many miles at sea.
It was no effort to glide along in the six-knot zone of the Coomera River, with the twin 1150hp Caterpillar turbo diesels ticking over at 790rpm. The ideal 'social' cruising speed was 10.6 knots (19.6km/h) at 1200rpm when, according to test figures supplied by the factory, the boat uses only 30lt/h. On a long-distance sea voyage, this would give the boat a range of approximately 890nm from the 5678lt fuel tank.
Optimum cruising speed was 2000rpm, which recorded a comfortable speed of 18 knots (33km/h) and 140lt/h fuel usage. Wide open at 2362rpm the 72 ran along at 23 knots (42.6km/h).
The 72 demonstrated that, with a little deft handling, it was no trouble to get in and out of a tight spot in a marina. It comes with a hydraulic 25hp bowthruster and a 15hp sternthruster, which were only needed to get the boat off the pontoon. However, if there are only two people onboard it would be wise to have someone waiting on the dock to take a line when returning... especially on a windy day. After all, it is a tall boat and does have a lot of windage.
The yacht-style apparent-wind gauge on the flybridge is a boon to indicate the wind strength and direction when manoeuvring. A third station is located in the aft cockpit for this purpose and makes shorthanded docking easier.
Despite being one of the world's largest yacht building yards in Asia, the factory does not sacrifice engineering or construction quality for expedience. In fact, some of its construction techniques are deliberately labour-intensive to maintain construction quality. As Johnny Chueh says: "It's the only way we will consider engineering an Ocean Alexander vessel."
SPECIFICATIONS: OCEAN ALEXANDER 72 PILOTHOUSE
Overall length: 21.75m (71.1ft)
Maximum length: 22.38m (73.4ft)
Fuel capacity: 5678lt
Water capacity: 1136lt
Holding tank capacity: 379lt
Power: Twin Caterpillar 1150hp
Generator: 2x Kohler 23kW
Price as tested: $3.9M
Ocean Alexander yachts are semi-custom built and the 72 pilothouse was presented as a walk-on, drive-away vessel.
For more information, contact: Todd Holzapfel, Tel: (07) 5618 0000. Web: oceanalexander.com.
About Ocean Alexander
Two generations of the Chueh family have guided Ocean Alexander over the past 35 years. With manufacturing in Taiwan, China and the United States, Ocean Alexander's combined yacht-building facilities place it among the largest in Asia, producing models ranging from 72ft (22m) to 120ft (36.5m). Ocean Alexander is based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.